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County Commission: budget strapped but future bright

The Board of Madison County Commissioners came together for their bi-monthly meeting at the courthouse annex on Wednesday, April 22 at 4 p.m. After the meeting was called to order and the agenda adopted, the Board welcomed petitions from the public. Reginald Thomas approached the podium with the intent to gain support from the commissioners to help rally residents of Madison County to “invest in their hometown and corporate a multiplex recreation center.” He feels that if citizens would come together, a facility could become a reality, claiming if 500 people invest $500 a piece, a total of $250,000, the building project could begin and inspire more individuals to invest. “This would create unity in the community and force everybody to come together,” said Thomas. On behalf of the Board, Commissioner Rick Davis commended Thomas for his efforts to better Madison County, stating they supported his endeavors. Next came department reports. Supervisor of Elections, Tommy Hardee, approached the podium and gave the Board a briefing on the recent happenings in his office. Every Wednesday, the office has been somewhere in the county registering voters with the intent to fix bad addresses, seeking solutions to cut back on spending. In addition, Hardee seeks to recognize two Madison County voters, who are over 100 years old, for their dedication to staying involved. The recognition ceremony would take place at an undetermined date. Next, Road Department Coordinator, Lonnie Thigpen, addressed the board, updating them on current road paving projects. Thigpen informed the board there is currently construction on Cattail and Whippoorwill, with plans to begin work on Oakhill and Yellowpine in the near future. Next on the agenda was discussion regarding the removal of trees from county owned property on SE Dale Leslie Drive for economic development. The Board unanimously voted to proceed. After the Board's vote, Crawford Powell presented the quarterly economic development update and review, informing the commissioners of possible economic advancements that could take place in Madison County in the near future. One of which, is the possibility of the railroad shipping company OmniTRAX expanding to Madison County. The company has expressed an interest in placing a loading facility in Greenville, where they could unload timber and various aggregate materials to a storage facility where it would then be picked up and shipped by truck to various locations. Initially, the new facility would offer anywhere from seven to ten jobs. Next, the Board was notified of a new vacancy on the Planning and Zoning Board, and then approved the interlocal agreement amending the North Florida Workforce Consortium as called for by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Public Law No. 113-128. The amendment made little changes but was necessary due to the new law. Then, the Board voted to pass a resolution re-designating Madison County as a Local Workforce Region and approved a firework permit request from Honey Lake Plantation. Afterward, Jackie Johnson approached the podium on behalf of Madison County Memorial Hospital. She informed them of the hospital's desire to hire Dr. Stockwell, a noteworthy gastroenterologist, and begin a gastroenterology program in order to benefit Madison County patients. However, it will take a start-up fee of $30,000 to recruit the doctor, one nurse and the new program. The hospital is asking six entities to donate $5,000 so that the program can begin. She then asked the Board to approve a donation of $5,000 from the county to benefit the fund. Despite their desire to support the hospital, the Board informed Johnson that, after having a budget meeting the same day, it has come to their attention the county is fiscally restrained. According to the Board, as well as Clerk of Court Tim Sanders, there's just not enough in the general fund to spare-- the county is already looking at budget cutting solutions to resolve the issue. Lastly, Clerk Sanders informed the Board of the Court Innovation Budget, a restricted amount of money which can only go towards court renovations and improvements. According to Sanders, Judge Browning wishes to use a portion of the budget to place video screens in the court room for presenting evidence-- two above the judge and one in the witness stand. The Board unanimously approved the request.

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